Sister Mary Cyrilla Hellman was a woman of extraordinary wit, talent, and vision, who lived her life in seemingly ordinary but highly effective ways. A century of generous community spirit, creative work to benefit others, and life-giving friendships proved her dynamic, evangelizing spirit. Celebrating her 100th birthday with a small party, Sister claimed she was ready for her last journey, occurring that very night.
Baptized Mary Ann, she was the fourth child of six born to Otto and Cecilia (Elwer) Hellman. Graduating from Delphos St. John High School in 1940, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1941. Sister’s specialty was education for which she obtained a master’s degree in Special Education from Catholic University of America. She was a particularly skilled teacher of younger children, kindergarten through grade 5. Seeing her expertise, the Diocese of Toledo asked her to be the supervisor for schools from 1965 to 1970. She also served as community consultant for the Sisters of Notre Dame and became the founding principal of the newly established Lial School in Whitehouse, Ohio in 1975.
No matter the assigned ministry, Sister always aimed for more. Besides her assigned teaching, she became a speech therapist, an advocate at Kinder CASA Board, and a member of Mayor’s Committee for Spanish Services in Norwalk. While teaching at St. Paul Elementary School in Norwalk (1984-2002), she performed pastoral ministry toward the sick in the parish, which eventually became full-time parish ministry in 2002. Until she left Norwalk in 2009, Sister was a GED instructor as part of her ministry to inmates at Huron County Jail. For her dedication in Norwalk, the parishioners gave her a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Volunteer work in hospital and prison ministry continued in Toledo for six more years.
As she retired to nursing centers Sister would pedal her feet, rolling her wheelchair to visit other residents with whom she shared her faith and prayer. The family of one resident even “adopted” Sister into their family and created a framed “certificate” of the “adoption,” which became one of Sister’s most prized possessions.